Eastern Bloc Tour 2k17

Vienna Day 1: Bones and Bahns

Before making our way into our third city of the trip, (Vienna), our coach made a stop in the UNESCO World-Heritage recognized village of Kutna Hora, Czech Republic. From the road, this little hamlet didn’t seem to be much to the eye, but what it’s famous for is this tiny, centuries-old Catholic church. But this isn’t your ordinary church. During the Black Plague, this church contained a mass grave beneath it for the multitude of people who died at the hands of the Black Death. Over time, those bodies obviously decomposed and soon, all that was left were their bones. And in the 1800s, there was a monk who was assigned the job to arrange the bones so as to make more room. Well, he was left alone for about five years to complete this task. After time had passed, others realized that he had not only rearranged the bones, but had positioned them into artistic patterns. What remains is a church decorated ornately by patterns of human bones. As a crew, we wee a little concerned about the mental health of that monk. Like, does “reclusive Czech monk bone artist” not sound like a good cover up for serial killer? It’s creepy. It’s weird. It’s beautiful. It’s morbid. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before. Nice stop, Contiki.

 

 

After a stop for a coffee, we were back on the road towards Austria. On the way we passed many adorable little Czech villages, filled with homes and chalets that exemplified what you think of when you hear the word “Bohemia.” It was out of a storybook. I adore the Czech Republic, rural and urban.

 

Another fun site was the rest stop we made for lunch. Apparently to make it more of a tourist trap, this rest stop was outfitted with a bunch of giant statues of a wizard, dragons, Viking women, a giant globe, an airplane, and all kinds of other weird giant things. It kind of reminded me of a mixed-up “South of the Border” for any of you who’ve ever driven through North and South Carolina.

 

We got to see another one of Emma’s power points, this one about Austria. Fun fact about Austria, The Sound of Music of course has world renown as being a showcase of Austria, however, that movie really didn’t have much acclaim in Austria itself. A movie about a charming family avoiding Nazi influence during the darkest period in their own history is a bit harder to weave into their culture. So going up to people and singing “Do Re Mi” isn’t going to have much of a reaction. Guess I’ll have to just sing it quietly to myself.

 

After one more short drive, we found ourselves within Vienna, and in the nicest hotel we’ve stayed at so far. This reminded me much more of a classy American hotel. It was big, with plenty of room to spread out. The bathrooms had a bunch of different mirrors and lights, which made doing hair and makeup quite easy.

 

 

After freshening up, we engaged on our first little mini-tour of Vienna. We didn’t have a guided walking tour of the city, but we saw all of the important sites from the bus. From driving around, Vienna appeared to be a calmer Paris. Very classy and cosmopolitan, but with a distinctive European twist. The buildings are ornately decorated and just beautiful. It’s also interwoven with many modern elements. This is the only city we’ve seen so far that has had many high-rise buildings as part of its skyline. You can tell that this is very much a modern and international city, but one that has also retained its ornate historical culture.

 

On that note, I find it hilarious that, despite the fact that in English we’d describe things from Vienna as Viennese, in German everything is called “Wiener” instead. So you’re walking around this beautiful, gorgeous city and the word “Wiener” is posted everywhere. It’s great.

 

Our night activity in Vienna was to head to Prater, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks, and the home of the world’s oldest Ferris Wheel. As a lover of all things amusement park, I was thrilled with this decision. We arrived at the park at dinner time, and a crew of us—Brodie, Sam, Grace, Gabby, and I—opted to eat dinner before going on any rides. The restaurant was actually very nice, albeit a bit pricey. Almost all of us had schnitzel, which came as mini-schnitzels all lined up on a stick. We said we couldn’t decide if they were mini-schnitzels or giant chicken nuggets. We had a wonderful time at dinner, all analyzing each others’ different accents and lingo, and telling stories from our home countries.

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From dinner, we all went up on the Ferris Wheel. It’s not a Ferris Wheel as a ride as much as it is an observatory. It’s also a private restaurant for anyone who pays enough. You can apparently have a whole car to yourself and be served by the kitchen at its base. I’d seen that on the Amazing Race, so I was excited to see an older couple dining by candlelight in one of the cars next to us. The views from the top were gorgeous, and lucky us, we’d gotten to the top just in time for twilight.

 

 

After the Ferris Wheel, Gabby, Brodie and I opted for one of the roller coasters called the “Super-8 Bahn,” “bahn” being German for road. From the ground, it kind of looked like a kiddie ride, but it was actually really intense! I love roller coasters so I was very pleased with how fast it went.

 

 

After meandering for a bit more it was time to head back to the comfy hotel for bed. I’d had a little taste of Viennese fun, and I was excited for what was in store for tomorrow.

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